Maintaining perfect nails is an important rite of beauty, one that has us visiting the nail salon each week and avoiding certain types of housework just to keep our tips in the best condition possible. Still, cracking, breaking, peeling nails happen to the best of us, because we can’t sit around all day rubbing cuticle oil into our fingers and slapping on nail strengthener. The best way to get strong nails is to have strong nails in the first place—here’s where to start.
Moisturize your nails after you wet your hands.
The number one cause of dry, brittle nails is dehydration, which happens after your hands are exposed not only to water, but to cleaning products as well. Doing the dishes, or even just washing your hair, can have seriously detrimental effects on your nails if left unaddressed. Each time you get out of the shower, wash your hands, or do housework, be sure to moisturize your hands, nails, and cuticles after to keep them hydrated. It’s also not a bad idea to wear rubber gloves when you do the dishes, since such talks often involve prolonged exposure to water.
Leave your cuticles alone.
Newsflash: cuticles serve a purpose. They protect the nail bed and the surrounding skin against fungi and bacteria, and once you cut them and compromise that barrier, you won’t have any such protection. In fact, cutting makes cuticles look worse, resulting in redness, swelling, and peeling skin—and even worse, it can lead to a serious infection that can cause permanent nail damage. No, thank you.
Opt for gel manicures sparingly.
The stronger chemicals and UV lights used in gel manicures can wreak havoc on your nails over time. We won’t try and dissuade you from getting a gel mani to carry you through a vacation or an important event, but opting for gels week after week can really weaken your nails for the long term.
Emery boards can be super harsh on nails and rub them ragged, leading to tiny cracks that can lead to major breakage. Swap your old-fashioned emery board for a smoother updated version, and rather than using a sawing motion back and forth (please don’t) file smoothly in one direction at a time to minimize damage.
Check the ingredients in your nail polish.
In the past few years, “three-free” nail polish has become a major buzzword after consumers became more aware of just how toxic certain polish ingredients can be. Formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate, and toluene are the big three to look out for when you’re buying nail color or choosing it at the salon. As with your skin, whatever you put on your nails can enter your bloodstream and affect your health, so not only will these ingredients hurt your nails, but they can have other serious repercussions, too. Avoid, avoid, avoid.
Read more from Daily Makeover: A New Way to Rehab Gel-Damaged Nails